Celebrating Women’s Suffrage: The Opening of Select Committee Room 5

Kia ora mai tātou, welcome to the refurbishment
of the women’s room, select committee room 5. I’m Louisa Wall, I’m the co-chair of CWP.
>>And I’m Jo Hayes and I’m the other co-chair of CWP and it’s great to have all the ladies
who helped to refurbish our beautiful new women’s room.>>So this refurbishment really does tell
our story about our place here at New Zealand’s Parliament.>>We’ve made a lot of progress since 1919,
but there’s a long way to go and I pay tribute to the first women who stood as candidates
and they paved the way for the first election of a woman MP, Elizabeth McCombs.>>Being the first must have been really,
really hard. I remember seeing the press headline “Elizabeth
McCombs first woman Member of Parliament gets sworn in tomorrow, will she wear a hat?” So I often reflect on how hard that must have
been to be a serious woman with lots of really big policy ambitions and to be trivialised
like that and she just put up with it.>>I’m really proud to be a Māori woman in
Parliament. I’m the first Māori woman to be a Minister
of Māori Development and the first Māori woman to wear a moko kauae into Parliament so for all those reasons you know it’s an opportunity to signal to the next generation that Parliament is a place
for all New Zealanders.>>Being the first Korean woman to be elected
into New Zealand Parliament is an absolute honour. It took a long time for the first ever Asian
person to be elected and that was Hon Pansy Wong who opened the door for all of us and
I think when people sort of realise that New Zealand is in fact a diverse country, it is
actually a multi-cultural country, and there are so many other diverse women and we need
to actually celebrate that.>>When I was elected and it was a little
bit of a surprise to me, I ended up becoming the very first refugee to be elected into
New Zealand’s Parliament. I realise that means a lot to the people who
have never had a voice and that’s what this place is about.>>It’s a real privilege to be the first Indian
born woman New Zealand Member of Parliament. I’m really proud of the way various ethnicities
live together side by side in New Zealand.>>We celebrate the fact that there’s been
150 woman MPs but actually we need to go further back and acknowledge the camellia behind us,
and the suffragists.>>I’m wearing my camellia that has my number
74 on the back of it. It’s become quite a strong symbol for women’s
suffrage and the role women are playing now in our democracy.>>There was this anecdote about the suffrage
movement in the meetings and someone said “are we going too fast? Maybe we’re pushing too fast for change and
people aren’t ready for this” and somebody apparently stood up and said “Well you know,
some people have to run so others can walk.” This is a room about celebrating the people
who got up and ran even when society wasn’t quite ready for them.>>The first time I went into the suffrage
room, that was where we were able to, among the women of this place, support each other
in women’s issues, issues internationally and nationally.>>When you come into this room, you immediately
feel the history and the breakthroughs that women have made, not just in Parliament but
actually in lots of other ways as well. But, I get inspiration from the strength of
those women.>>When I saw that room I was so impressed. It’s such a beautiful room. That room actually reminds us of the hard work of suffragists.>>You know, they’re ordinary people doing
extraordinary things and their gender didn’t stop them.>>And I think the opening of the refurbished
room is going to be really a great experience because this is something that women have
done. We’ve taken care of the decor of it and there’s
part of it that’s quite spectacular.>>Women make up more than half the population
of New Zealand, to actually have Parliament that represents New Zealand population is
actually very important.>>New Zealand is a wonderful exemplar of
proving to the rest of the world that we can be inclusive of diversity but more importantly
of gender.>>So the fact that there is a room dedicated
to women who have taken up the challenge means a lot for those of us that follow in their
footsteps.>>We can celebrate in the political space
because of the suffrage movement and the country that gave women the right to vote. We were the first.>>It’s been an absolute privilege to be involved
in the redesigning of the room, to reflect the long history of many, many women so it’s
important that we acknowledge them and celebrate the diversity that we, not only have in Parliament
but as a reflection of the diversity in our New Zealand society.>>So this room is hoping to showcase our
first woman MP, our first Māori woman MP, Iriaka Rātana, our Ministers, Prime Ministers
and really does showcase and highlight I guess the diversity of representation representing
the people of New Zealand.

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